Megan Miller’s Chirp Bars, made of cricket flour, is being brought to market like a technology product, reports Nick Bilton in The New York Times (10/21/13). "My background is digital product development," says Megan. "I’m using the same kinds of thinking that I used in technology start-ups … What is happening right now is that Silicon Valley is starting to see opportunities for disruption in other areas besides traditional technology." Of course, this has long been true, witness iTunes and Spotify in music; Amazon in retail; and Craigslist in advertising, for instance.
Megan’s premise is that the world’s population growth will outpace the supply of suitable protein. "There is no way we can produce meat at scale," she says. "What we’re trying to do is popularize a protein that hasn’t made it into Western culture yet." Yes, she’s talking about insect protein, and adds: "You have to think in terms of scaling, like software, and that’s what Silicon Valley brings to food start-ups, where we know how to create something small, then iterate rapidly, and finally scale it." Josh Tetrick of Hampton Creek Foods is on a similar track, with products including plant-based egg and mayonnaise substitutes.
"While a chicken egg will never change, our idea is that we can have product where we push updates into the system, just like Apple updates its iOS operating system," says Josh. "So, our mayo is version 1.0, and the next version will be 2.0, which will be less expensive and last twice as long." Whole Foods is among the early adopters, and is expected to offer Josh’s Just Mayo brand soon. Not everyone is convinced the tech model applies to food, though. Thomas Manuel of Nu-Tek Food notes that unlike technology, food innovations cannot be patent protected, and are easily copied.